The Arty Semite

Victor Navasky Knows an Anti-Semitic Cartoon

By Michael Kaminer

Edward Sorel

On the back flap of his new book, Victor Navasky is portrayed in a kinetic caricature by the illustrious Edward Sorel. It’s one clue about Navasky’s deep connection to political cartoons explored in “The Art of Controversy,” a personal history as well as learned survey of the form.

The former editor and publisher of The Nation, Navasky first published political cartoons as editor of Monocle, a “radical sporadical” satirical journal he founded in the late 1950s. More recently, he engaged with the infamous “Muhammad” cartoons that sparked rioting across the Muslim world, choosing not to run them in this very book, a decision he explains at length. With lucid, funny takes on artists from William Hogarth to Ralph Steadman to Doug Marlette — and an entire chapter on Der Sturmer, the Nazi propaganda magazine whose vicious cartoons demonized Jews — Navasky brings the art form’s power to life. The Arty Semite spoke to him from Manhattan.

Michael Kaminer: What is it about cartoons that spark such emotional reactions?

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Lunching With New Yorker Cartoonists

By Eitan Kensky

Courtesy BJFF

Every frame in Rachel Loube’s “Every Tuesday: A Portrait of the New Yorker Cartoonists,” now screening at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, together with “The Art of Spiegelman,” threatens to dissolve into cliché. There is the premise itself: Every Tuesday, New Yorker cartoonists, young and old, submit their work, and then go for lunch. It is a beautiful, invisible New York tradition, the kind that Gay Talese would have celebrated in luxurious prose, the kind that the media is intent on reminding us no longer exist. The restaurant is appropriately shabby. The food scenes are all set to jazz.

There is no question that if “Every Tuesday” were any longer it would become unbearably familiar and impossible to watch. But at 20 minutes, it’s perfect. The cartoonists come alive in short bursts. Zachary Kanin, a Harvard Lampoon alumnus, is legitimately hilarious. Their very different apartments and workspaces quickly tell us about their different styles and approach to the craft. We watch some cartoonists revise and edit their work on imposing Apple Monitors, and others retrace their cartoons on top of a light box. Some aim for perfection, while others have started to embrace artistic imperfection. Wouldn’t it be better if a rectangle weren’t so rectangular?

“Every Tuesday” is everything you want in a short film: It brings you into a unique world, gives you enough information to make you feel like you understand the key issues, and leaves you absolutely wanting more.

Watch a teaser for ‘Every Tuesday’:

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Listening in Portland to the Voice of Bugs Bunny

By Michael Kaminer

Courtesy of Noel Blanc

He was a Portland Jew who dropped out of high school to find fame and fortune in New York. And while he never became a household name, his alter egos — Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Pepé Le Pew, and Barney Rubble, among hundreds of others — became part of pop culture lore.

Now, voice actor Mel Blanc is the subject of a new exhibit at the Oregon Jewish Museum in Portland. “That’s All, Folks: The Mel Blanc Story,” which runs through September 11, “is a sunny exhibition about a genuine local celebrity who also seems to have been a genuinely nice guy,” reports the Portland Oregonian. “It abounds in photographic, documentary and voice-recorded memories of Blanc’s life and times in Portland and Hollywood (he died in 1989), including recorded reminiscences by other top voice actors, photos of Blanc with the likes of Jack Benny, and animations and other material from those Warner Bros. cartoon days.”

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Israeli Museum to House Original Drawings of American Cartoonist Joe Kubert

By Ronen Shnidman

Courtesy of the Israeli Cartoon Museum

The third wave of the comic book craze may soon be reaching Israeli shores, with 1960s comic book icon Joe Kubert scheduled to visit the country in August. During his first visit to Israel, Kubert is expected to donate some of his original artwork to the Israeli Cartoon Museum in Holon.

Kubert is a comic book legend who reached the peak of his mass appeal during the Silver Age of Comics (1960s to 1970s), creating the original series ““Tales of the Green Beret” about a group of elite U.S. Army soldier and Tor, a prehistoric human.

The trip and donation, arranged with the help of Israeli comic book artist Dorit Maya Gur, is expected to be a major coup for the recently opened Israeli Cartoon Museum in Holon. Gur, a former student of Kubert’s, is perhaps best known for the creation of Israeli comic book hero and all-around shlemazel, Falafel Man. The Israeli Cartoon Museum opened in Holon in 2007 as part of an initiative by Mayor Moti Sasson to rebrand the city as a children-friendly place dedicated to supporting the fine arts.

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The Genesis of a Cartoon

By Ken Krimstein

Ken Krimstein is the author of “Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons.” In his previous posts he wrote about how to be a Jewish cartoonist, making it as a professional and kvetching and wining. His blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:


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Jewish Gag Cartoonists

By Ken Krimstein

Ken Krimstein is the author of “Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons.” In his previous posts he wrote about making it as a Jewish cartoonist and kvetching and wining. His blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:


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Kvetch and Wine

By Ken Krimstein

Ken Krimstein is the author of “Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons.” In his last post he wrote about making it as a Jewish cartoonist. His blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:


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Let There Be Kvetch!

By Ken Krimstein

Ken Krimstein is the author of “Kvetch As Kvetch Can: Jewish Cartoons.” His blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:


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Too Gross for the 21st Century? Jewish American Cartoonist Milt Gross

By Benjamin Ivry

Click for larger view

On February 7, at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, a new publication from New York University Press, “Is Diss A System? A Milt Gross Comic Reader” edited by Ari Y. Kelman, will be presented. Gross (born in 1895) of Russian Jewish ancestry, drew comic strips of wild slapstick energy, following in the violence-for-laughs tradition of “The Katzenjammer Kids.” A self-consciously low comedian, Gross drew racist images of black people and was not all that flattering about Jews either.

Gross’s defiantly insensitive gift for visual anarchy got him jobs in Hollywood writing and directing short films like “Izzy Able the Detective” (1921) and “Jitterbug Follies” (1939; see below). Gross was even reportedly hired by Charlie Chaplin to invent sight gags for the silent film “The Circus.”

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